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Bruce Alexander

2007 Sterling prize winner

October 4, 2007

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Bruce Alexander, SFU professor emeritus of psychology and a pioneer in human addiction research, is the 2007 winner of the Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in support of controversy.

The selection committee, headed by the late Barry Beyerstein, based its decision on Alexander’s highly controversial work on drugs and human addiction.

The Sterling Prize for controversy is unique in the world, and this award is a perfect example of why it is important," says Ronald Ydenberg, SFU biological scientist and chair of the committee. "Professor Alexander’s work addresses important local and global issues, and gives another perspective on addiction. The intense disapproval it has generated should make thinking people want to take a look at just what he’s saying that is perceived as so dangerous."

Throughout his 30-year career at SFU, Alexander’s research on drugs and addiction, and the myths of drug-induced addiction, has been more often greeted by screeching headlines and irate letters to the editor than by voices of reason. When the World Health Organization launched the largest global study on cocaine, it was an SFU team led by Alexander which looked at Vancouver’s users and government response.

Alexander is author of Peaceful Measures: Canada’s Way Out of the War on Drugs. He looked at other addictions: a 1986 study showed the addiction shared by the greatest number of SFU students was love. Their most serious drug dependencies were caffeine and nicotine.

Nora and the late Ted Sterling, the founding chair of computing science at SFU, established the prize at SFU in 1993 to honour "work which challenges complacency and that provokes controversy or contributes to its understanding." The prize will be awarded at 7 pm, Tues. Oct. 16 at SFU’s Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue, followed by Alexander’s lecture on the globalization of addiction. Free, but reservations are essential: 778.782.5100.

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